Tag Archives: grockit

Kaplan EdTech Accelerator 2014

Overview: The Kaplan EdTech Accelerator Class of 2014

Today Kaplan announced the twelve edtech startups that will take part in its second accelerator program. The Kaplan EdTech Accelerator is in partnership with Techstars and takes place in New York City over the course of three months.

The participants were chosen out of a total of 500 applications which is 50% more compared with last year’s batch according to Ed Hanapole, CIO at Kaplan. Eight of the twelve participants come out of New York City.

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EDUKWEST Sunday Review

Sunday Review: Grockit sells to Kaplan, Voxy raises $8.5m and Hoot.Me joins Civitas Learning

EDUKWEST Sunday Review

Grockit brand and technology sold to Kaplan, team rebrands to Learnist

The writing was somewhat on the wall for a while as Farbood Nivi, founder and CEO of Grockit made clear that the focus of the team had shifted from the test prep platform towards their new product Learnist. Farb and I talked about this in January during our EDUKWEST interview.

Back then he stated that though Grockit was still a very good business he felt that he and the team had achieved pretty much achieved they could do with the startup and that Learnist was far more exciting and had a big potential as a key player in the lifelong learning space. I also imagine it to be pretty difficult to have two totally different products under one roof, as Learnist up to the deal with Kaplan was basically just a product within Grockit, not a startup of its own.

The acquisition of the Grockit brand and technology by Kaplan and the rebranding of the team to Learnist once again shows that Farb is one of the smartest founders in edtech today. It’s a win-win for all sides involved. Kaplan gets a great brand, product and potentially nice group of customers, Farb and the team can now go all in with Learnist with some extra cash in the warchest. Though the details of the deal have not been made public, Farb told AllThingsD that

“Selling Grockit gives us considerable runway without any dilution of shares.”

The interesting part now is whether Kaplan will be able to integrate Grockit into its business and build on the brand. I don’t know how much about the strategy is out there already, but I can say that the “product owner” of Grockit is going to be a familiar face to the EDUKWEST audience. As soon as he has settled into the new role, we are going to have him back for a talk.

Voxy raises $8.5 million from Pearson and Rethink Education

If people ask me about interesting companies in the mobile education space, Voxy is definitely among the names I mention. Paul Gollash and his team have built one of the best mobile experiences in the language learning space, leveraging technology and content in a way that actually make sense.

If you want to know how it all started, I did an interview with Paul just after his first appearance at TechCrunch50.

The latest Series B round led by Pearson brings the total funding to $16.5 million according to CrunchBase. Pearson is planning to integrate Voxy’s technology into its own products for English learners across the globe.

Which leaves us with two questions.

1. Are mobile learning startups FNACs (feature, not a company)?
2. When is Pearson going to acquire Voxy?

To the first question, right now there are not many examples of startups in the mobile space that have managed to create a huge company compared to classic web based companies like Facebook, Amazon, Google etc. Sure, the future is mobile, no doubt about it, but if you take a look at Instagram which built up a huge audience you also see that it ended up as being a part (feature) of Facebook. Vine and Twitter is another example and Rovio is probably the only startup at the moment that made an impact comparable to web startups.

So there is the question if Voxy (or any other mobile first learning startup) is going to be big enough to stand on their own or whether they all end up being part of an established player that has a larger footprint throughout different verticals like publishing, physical schools etc.

Which takes us to the second question. Investing in a startup to later acquire it is a strategy we have seen quite often with Pearson. I would say depending on the acceptance of Voxy among the Pearson audience and the general performance I give Voxy a maximum of three years as an independent startup.

Hoot.Me joins Civitas Learning

I learned about this “acquihire” through a LinkedIn update by Hoot.me founder Michael Koetting who now is product manager at Civitas Learning. There are no terms disclosed but Michael told me via email that

Hoot.Me is now part of Civitas Learning and will continue to be fully supported.

Michael and his co-founders created Hoot.Me after they were not able to get answers to difficult questions in their massive college seminar classes. Over the years more than a million interactions took place on the platform and as more and more colleges and universities jump on the MOOC bandwagon, real interactions with real people could be a key success factor for many students.

Civitas Learning just raised $8.5 million in June for its data driven platform that aims to reduce dropout rates through predictive technology.

EDUKWEST #96 Farbood Nivi Grockit Learnist

EDUKWEST #96 with Farbood Nivi of Grockit and Learnist

EDUKWEST #96 Farbood Nivi Grockit LearnistIn episode 96 of EDUKWEST my guest is Farbood Nivi, founder of test prep company Grockit and now founder of Learnist.

Having worked as a teacher for a decade, Farbood explains why the field of social learning has always fascinated him and how he built his companies around the huge amounts of knowledge freely available on the Internet and the different aspects of social learning as centerpieces.

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Discovery leads $20 million Investment in Grockit and Learnist


The later the year, the higher the funding. Grockit just announced a $20 million strategic investment led by Discovery Communications with participation of Summit Group and previous investors Atlas Venture, Benchmark Capital, Integral Capital Partners and GSV Capital Corp.

But money isn’t all that Grockit gets out of this strategic investment. Discovery will also share technology and explore marketing, distribution and promotion options with Learnist.

This investment is another interesting move by Discovery that seems to clearly have understood that the future of entertainment and education (lifelong, informal and formal) lies on the Internet. Earlier this year Discovery acquired Revision3, one of the first web-based video startups that was founded by Jay Adelson, David Prager and Kevin Rose in 2005.

The portfolio of web shows spans from gaming over technology to news and entertainment and is targeting the so called YouTube audience which is getting used to receive most (all?) of its information via the video platform instead of classic media like TV or radio.

If you think about it, the Discovery Channel is somewhat the predecessor of today’s way to learn informally. Offering a wide variety of documentaries and educational shows, Discovery kind of laid the groundwork for today’s breed of educational web shows we can find on YouTube.

But back to Grockit and Learnist. The learning community was launched in May 2012 and has seen some significant growth since. The user base grew by 400% and the engagement on the site has doubled according to the press release. Most people describe Learnist as “Pinterest for education” but besides collecting interesting educational and informational content from the web the focus is on creating small lessons and courses similar to what MentorMob or Veri do.

With today’s announcement also comes a redesign of the site which now showcases content curated by expert community members. The categories range from education, technology, science and business to travel, news, politics and a lot more.

If you now think of an interactive overlay for popular shows on the Discovery Channel, a way for the audience to share, learn and connect via the Internet or connected TVs, I think we come pretty close to one of the reasons for this investment. The second screen, which essentially means the iPad at the moment, could be a great device for interacting with your favorite documentary and like-minded casual learners. Very interesting to my mind. From the press release:

“Discovery’s commitment to igniting people’s curiosity and passion for learning is a natural fit with Learnist’s unique knowledge platform and model that encourages passionate audiences to share what they know and learn what they don’t. Discovery is proud to lead this round of financing and excited about the many ways that our strategic investment will help to expand the reach and further development of the Learnist platform.” – JB Perrette, Chief Digital Officer, Discovery Communications

There are also features added to the mobile application of the service today. Watch the video below to learn more about these additions.

ENT Audio Podcast

A Pinterest for Learning – ENT #16 05-23-2012 (Audio)

ENT Audio Podcast

Ed News Ticker #16

A Pinterest for Learning

  • recorded: May 23rd 2012
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Tech & Startups

Grockit Wants to Build a Pinterest for Learning

Grockit’s new product, Learnist, works a bit like a Pinterest for learning. Soon anyone will be able to compile content pieces onto a board or “learning.” A bookmarklet makes it easy to collect content from other sites.
Unlike Pinterest, however, creators suggest a path in which to consume each content component. Users can check off each component as they go or “re-add” it to one of their own learnings.
Grockit will continue to offer its test-prep service for $30 per month, but it is focusing on Learnist going forward. Grockit’s social, adaptive learning question sets are now embeddable within Learnist boards.
“Test prep was always a stepping stone to larger learning,” Nivi says about the change in direction. “We always knew this was coming. We just didn’t know what it would look like.”

Source: Mashable

Former Kaplan executive launches Civitas Learning

Charles Thornburgh, a former senior executive at Kaplan launches Civitas Learning, a digital-education platform that uses predictive analytics to help guide educational decision-making. Civitas works with partner institutions — and also, more specifically, with the data those partner institutions have gathered about their students — to identify trends about the classes students enroll in, the majors they take on, and other factors that can determine career courses and overall success in their post-collegiate lives.
The company, based in Austin, has raised $4.1 million in venture capital funding.

Source: Mashable

Google did not infringe on Oracle patents – Jury struggle with technical language

Google won the second part of its patent fight over Android with Oracle today when a jury decided unanimously that it did not infringe on patents from Sun Microsystems (purchased in 2009 by database giant Oracle). Two interesting takeaways for educators: 1) There is one less bit of uncertainty around the adoption of Android for a variety of computing needs in schools and 2) As with the previous Google/Oracle trial, jurors struggled with highly technical language in the patents. Another aspect of general tech and language education?

Source: ZDNet

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt files for bankruptcy

Publishing giant Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, citing $3.5 billion in debt, filed for bankruptcy in US court today. According to Bloomberg, “More than 20 affiliates also entered bankruptcy, including Broderbund LLC and Classroom Connect Inc.
“The global financial crisis over the past several years has negatively affected” Houghton Mifflin’s financial performance, in a business that “depends largely on state and local funding” for the schoolbook market, said William Bayers, company general counsel, in court papers.”

The reorganized company will be looking to deals with Amazon, among others, to develop new revenue streams after it emerges from bankruptcy protection.

Source: Business Week

K12 & Higher Ed

Former Twitter CTO Takes Key Role at Cornell’s NYC Tech Campus

Cornell University is building a revolutionary technology campus in New York City in collaboration with the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, and filling a key role at the school will be former Twitter Chief Technology Officer Greg Pass.
Pass will serve as CornellNYC Tech’s “Founding Entrepreneurial Officer,” a role tasked with ensuring the academic program is tightly intertwined with New York City’s many technology firms and that the curricula is highly focused on developing students’ entrepreneurial skills. Pass will also help direct student hackathons and coding workshops as well as serve as a public face for the university.

Source: Mashable

Mitt Romney calls for funding school choice with funds for disabled students

US Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney outlined his education agenda today, in particular aiming to expand school choice and make funds through the IDEA and Title 1 programs (for disabled and disadvantaged students, respectively) portable when students wish to attend online schools, charter schools, or otherwise leave schools that don’t meet their needs.According to EdWeek, “When it comes to the No Child Left Behind Act, Romney would dismantle the accountability system at the heart of the law, and calls for schools to create “report cards” with a variety of information about student progress. Schools would have report scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress—known as the nation’s report card.”

Source: Education Week

NSA Teams Up With Colleges to Train Students for Secret Cyber-Ops Jobs

The National Security Agency is partnering with select universities to train students in cyber operations for intelligence, military and law enforcement jobs, work that will remain secret to all but a select group of students and faculty who pass clearance requirements.
Although 20 universities applied to participate in the program, only four were selected so far: Dakota State University, Naval Postgraduate School, Northeastern University and University of Tulsa.
The cyber-operations curriculum is part of the Obama administration’s national initiative to improve cybersecurity through education, and is designed to prepare students for jobs with the U.S. Cyber Command, the NSA’s signals intelligence operations, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies that investigate cyber crimes.

Source: Wired

Oakland schools’ black male students at risk

Researchers found that 1 out of 5 African American boys in Oakland, more than 1,200 students, were suspended from school at least once last year and an equal number were chronically absent.
The study identified the early-warning signs of a high school dropout, including an absentee rate of at least 10 days in a school year, at least one suspension, below-grade literacy and being held back a grade.
To address the problem, Superintendent Tony Smith created the Office of African American Male Achievement in October 2010, one of a handful of public school programs in the country focused on one subset of students based on a single ethnicity and gender.
While the report’s numbers were sobering, Chatmon said it’s important to note the good news, including the nearly 1,200 black students who landed on the honor roll this spring.

Source: SF Gate

Nearly $100,000 in college checks appear forged, audit finds

Auditors had handwriting experts review the checks and other documents. The experts concluded the signature of Trade Tech President Roland “Chip” Chapdelaine was probably forged on dozens of checks to the executive director, Rhea Chung.
The audit found another official’s signature was forged on bonus agreements and another contract involving Chung. She has been on administrative leave since January after a previous district audit raised questions about the propriety of bonuses and perks paid to her.
The Times reported in February that Chung had spent tens of thousands of dollars in foundation money intended to help needy students on golf outings and restaurant meals.

Source: LA Times

80 Percent Of Spanish Teachers were On Strike on Tuesday

Teachers and students from every level of Spain’s education system went on strike Tuesday to protest wide-ranging government spending cuts, erecting makeshift tombs at university campuses to symbolize what they claim will be the death of the country’s schooling system.
Union officials said 80 percent of the country’s teachers took part. All but three of Spain’s 17 regions participated in the stoppage, the biggest in a series of strikes so far this year that had until now been scattered around the country. The Education Ministry did not return a call seeking government figures.

Source: Business Insider

Study & Research

Report: College Students Study Less

According to the National Survey of Student Engagement, the amount of time college students spend preparing for class each week has dropped from 24 hours a week to about 15 over the past 12 years. Critics say college students are getting lazier and college is getting less demanding academically and more focused on athletics. Others counter that students have had to take on more work to afford higher education and make ends meet.

Source: The Daily Beast